Special teams created to keep infrastructure safe

Written by Sihle Manda

Rampant rail and other infrastructure crimes, which cost billions of rands in losses, could be a thing of the past in KwaZulu-Natal following the launch of the Specialised Multi-Disciplinary Economic Infrastructure Task Teams (EITTs).

It is hoped that this South African Police Service initiative will help stop gangs from causing delays and destruction on construction sites and also prevent infrastructure theft, such as cable theft – all of which negatively affect the economy of the country.

In recent years, South Africa’s rail infrastructure has fallen prey to criminal syndicates, compromising the safety of passengers and rail operators.

The EITTs will focus on:

  • Non-ferrous metal theft (such as copper cable theft).
  • Essential infrastructure crimes (such as tampering with, damaging or destroying infrastructure related to energy, transport, water, sanitation and communication services).
  • Critical infrastructure crimes (such as pipeline fuel theft).
  • Extortion at construction and/or economic sites.
  • Combating illegal mining and illicit trafficking.

In his State of the Nation Address in February, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ongoing damage to and theft of economic infrastructure has “damaged confidence and severely constrained economic growth, investment and job creation.”

The President said the country needs to confront the criminal gangs that invade construction sites and other business places and demand money from companies, saying this requires a focused and coordinated response.  

The Deputy Provincial Commissioner for Policing in KwaZulu-Natal, Major General Phumelele Makoba, recently launched the EITTs.

Addressing the launch at the Durban Central Police Station, Makoba urged all role-players to work together in an integrated manner to safeguard infrastructure and bring perpetrators to book.

“We are convinced that the perpetrators of these crimes are repeat offenders and we need to strike a blow to these criminal syndicates and bring an end to the theft and destruction of our essential infrastructure.”

The three task teams will be based in the Ethekwini, Umgungundlovu and King Cetshwayo districts where these crimes are most prevalent.

The teams are made up of members of the police, government departments, other law enforcement agencies, state-owned entities, cellular telephone providers and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.

By working together in task teams under one command, these departments and agencies will be able to combine their recourses to better fight infrastructure-related crimes.

To report illegal activities related to infrastructure and any other crime call the South African Police Service on 10111.